For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Those ethereal words written in the bible were written across Aaron Hernandez’ forehead when he was found hung in his cell on April 19, 2017. As people are being incarcerated by the hundreds each day, “suicides kill more inmates than homicide, overdoses, and accidents combined”(Smith). The increase in crime in the United States has almost doubled within the past two years and although there is a large increase in prison populations all around the nation, the mental health care for prisoners has continued to fail those in need by having prisons serve as mental institutions.
Researching the mental health care in the prison system, there is a dramatic difference between the treatment needed for these challenged inmates and the treatment being provided, because prisons are now being used as psychological facilities. Due to the recent increase of crime across the nation many are being sent to correctional facilities to serve time for their actions. Being that within the past forty years the United States alone has managed to increase the population of correctional institutions by 500% is astonishing. Within this group of people, those who are low-income, homeless, or addicts will most likely become victims to mental health issues. As those incarcerated are in desperate need of treatment, there are just many more prisoners than there are beds in the psychiatric hospitals thanks to the creation of thorazine. Thorazine is an antipsychotic medication that is said to “treat” mental illness and behavioral disorders, the creation of this medication was meant to “relieve” the suffering of the victims but the government still failed those in need with the deinstitutionalization movement.
This major social movement of the early 1960s led to many psychological hospitals to shut down forcing the mentally ill into society which only set them up for failure and will lead to these people entering prisons where they will not receive the proper treatment. Although thousands of convicts are held in cruel, inhumane, and degrading conditions; a portion of these people “are held in solitary confinement, spending 23 or more hours a day in small cells, allowed out only for showers, brief exercise, or medical visits, without telephone calls or visits from family members”(Equal Justice Initiative,p.1). Mentally challenged inmates face several impediments while living within four concrete walls, one may act out and be taken into solitary confinement not only for the safety of themselves but for others as well. Studies show that isolation can be just as agonizing as physical torture on the human brain which can conclude that this is no way for a psychologically challenged person should have to live.
Due to the circumstances of the living conditions victims may begin to have suicidal thoughts, as stated by Kalier Browder, “Some people think that solitary confinement is basically just spending some alone time. It’s not. It’s like being buried alive”. Being isolated for a minimum of seven days can have drastic effects on the body such as, “hallucinations, severe and chronic depression, self-mutilation, rage, anxiety, paranoia, and lower levels of brain function”(Ferranti,p.3). All of the effects stated can all take a toll on a person and could possibly cause them them to take their life like former New England Patriots Football Superstar and convicted murder, Aaron Hernandez.
Although there does need to be reliable facilities to treat those in need, studies estimate that it “could cost more than $400 million” to open a single facility(Kissinger,p.1). Paying for these facilities across the nation will cost taxpayers lots of money and even though many are desperate for these facilities, not everyone supports providing the convicted with opportunities to improve their livelihood.
Despite the masses that assume that opening these facilities will only charge them lump sums of money, they are not understanding that they are paying just as much if not more on housing all of these convicts in prisons which “the annual average taxpayer cost was $31,286 per inmate”(Santora,p.1). Rather than simply housing these human being why not provide them with the chance to better themselves and receive the treatment they need. By providing the mentally-ill with reliable treatment, they “treat offenders as patients who can and do recover and who return to society as people who can be expected, for the most part, to be law-abiding citizens”(Byron,p.12), which manifests the idea that prisons were never meant to function as mental health care facilities.Correctional officials clearly realize that there is a pressing need for genuine mental health care in our prison system, yet neglect to establish the programs deemed necessary to treat mentally-ill convicts and not just deal with them.